A Mother’s Story: Even for a Human Services Employee, Getting Help for Her Son was Confusing

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ABHI Blog pic 4-21-17If your child was experiencing a mental health crisis today, you would have a slew of questions requiring immediate, coordinated, and compassionate answers…providing clear direction. Who do I call? What are our treatment options? What’s the process for enrolling? When will treatment begin and what will happen next? We need help now.

Here, a mother shares her experience trying to get her son quick access to an adolescent mental health treatment program. Her story highlights how getting clear, guided assistance on enrollment procedure was confusing and frustrating, even with the  knowledge and insight she had from a career working in Human Services…leaving her to say, “I can’t imagine how hard it would be for somebody without the resources I am lucky enough to have.” This story demonstrates the need for behavioral health services to address the PVI Principles of Information, Empowerment, and Affordability.

A Mother’s Story 

Over the past several years, my son has struggled with depression, ADHD, anxiety and risky behavior. His school was no help at all and, in fact, exacerbated the problem. In addition, the school was unable to direct us to appropriate services. Luckily, I was able to find an Intensive Outpatient Program that he attended for several months, and we most recently participated in family-based treatment for about six months. The services we received were excellent; however, it was very difficult to find what we needed and to get enrolled. This was particularly significant to me because I work for a county human services department and am therefore more aware and informed about local human services than the average person. However, I had to pull out all the stops to find what we needed.

This was particularly true for the family-based treatment. Through an internet search, we found out about one organization in town, but when we went in to talk to them, they told us that they would only accept my son for services if he had Medical Assistance (he has excellent private insurance). They didn’t help us with the complicated, confusing and frustrating application process. At one point, I was directed to an advocacy organization that gave me completely incorrect information about what I needed to apply for. And trying to call the Medical Assistance office for assistance was fruitless – even if it’s possible to reach somebody, they are unhelpful. Even when my son was approved for Medical Assistance, I felt that I didn’t (and still don’t) completely understand the process or even what his is eligible for. Again, I am well connected and informed, so if I found it so difficult, I can’t imagine how hard it would be for somebody without the resources I am lucky enough to have.

Once we received the Medical Assistance approval, I contacted the youth-serving organization and was told that they no longer had an opening. I had to once again reach out to my colleagues to find another agency that provided the kind of services we needed. Luckily, I did find a great agency and they enrolled us in home-based services, which made a world of difference for my son (and for the functioning of his parents – me, my ex-husband and his wife).

I think there are two important take-aways from my story:

  1. Trying to find out about available services, and accessing them is confusing, hard and frustrating. There should be an easier way to find out what’s available and how to access the appropriate service. And schools should be more informed and better referral sources.
  2. Payment for services is still a confusing issue to me. If agencies require Medical Assistance to provide services, then they should help with the application process or be able to refer clients to an entity that can. In addition, the length of the application process and waiting period could pose a number of risks to families in crisis.

Can you relate to this experience? Do you have an insight to share? Tell your story at goPVI.org/ABHIIf you’re experiencing a similar struggle and need immediate help in your region, find support through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The following organizations are allies of the Adolescent Behavioral Health Initiative, here to help in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania:

Allegheny Children’s Initiative coordinates with families, schools, and community organizations to provide behavioral and mental health services to children and adolescents between the ages of 2-21 in Allegheny County. Services include: Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Services for Children and Adolescents, Family Based Mental Health Services, Service Coordination, Administrative Service Coordination, Parent Child Interaction Therapy, Behavioral Supports Services, Psychological Evaluations

FamilyLinks.org  provides a broad range of vital behavioral health services to children and adults throughout western Pennsylvania. Services include: outpatient mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment, educational coordination for those with intellectual disabilities and for children with behavioral or developmental health challenges, as well as traditional school prevention education programs and school-based mental health services.

LEAD Pittsburgh (Leading Education and Awareness for Depression) is a Pittsburgh community initiative supporting those living with depression through education, advocacy for increased access to treatment, reduction of stigma, and building individual resilience. LEAD’s SCoRE®— Student Curriculum on Resilience Education is a resource for young adults to help build their resilience skills with the goal of protecting them against the development of anxiety and depression

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a community counseling agency providing professional, confidential counseling to young people ages 5 to 21 and their families. Counseling is provided for anger management, family problems and school related issues, depression, anxiety, drug & alcohol and many other challenges.

Pittsburgh Mercy Behavioral Health offers community-based programs and services that empower people to improve their lives and make wise choices. Services include: 24/7 Crisis Center (1-877-637-2924), Mental and behavioral health services, services for individuals with intellectual disabilities, addiction services, education & prevention programs, and integrated health care.

Pressley Ridge works to establish stable families and lifelong relationships by offering a continuum of programs, including mental health services, foster care, residential treatment and specialized education for children with special needs. Mental Health services include: in-home treatment & supervision, school-based specialized therapy and psychiatric services, outpatient treatment & counseling, and crisis support services.

Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC offers a complete range of diagnostic and treatment services for a broad range of psychiatric and mental health conditions. Clinical mental health services include: 24-hour emergency walk-in therapy and crisis intervention, mobile crisis evaluations and treatments through the re:solve Crisis Network, community-based and in-home behavioral health services for children, adolescents, and their families, intensive case management.

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